Yap says plastic bag ban could have 'far-reaching' benefits
An environmental agency for the Micronesian state of Yap says it is optimistic a platic bag ban will have wide-ranging benefits including helping keep its reefs healthy and protecting marine life.
An environmental agency for the Micronesian state of Yap says it is optimistic a plastic bag ban will have wide-ranging benefits including helping keep its reefs healthy and protecting marine life.
Yap banned the use of plastic bags last year but gave retailers a grace period to allow the gradual phasing out of the bags.
But the ban came into full effect this month and retailers now face a 100 US dollar fine if they provide a customer with a plastic grocery bag.
A spokesperson for Yap's Environmental Protection Agency, Loren Atkins, spoke to Amelia Langford about the reasons behind the ban.
LOREN ATKINS: Plastic pollution is a pretty big problem throughout the whole region - not just Yap state and removing the disposable plastic grocery bags is just one step in that process to helping to deal with that plastic waste issue. So for Yap I know one of the initial motivations was to try and remove the eyesore of plastic grocery bags from the landscape here and also to try and protect the reefs and marine life from plastic bag pollution. There has even been instances where the plastic bags are disposed of responsibly but because of their wind-borne nature they regularly end up leaving the landfill site or making their way down to the reefs. So it has been a two part motivation behind it to remove the waste from the reef and also to keep the environment looking beautiful.
AMELIA LANGFORD: Because I am imagining that Yap might have a thriving tourism industry. Would I be right in saying that?
LA: That's correct. So one of Yap's main industries is tourism and one of the big drivers behind that is the scuba diving industry. Yap is world famous for its manta ray diving and because of that the health of the reefs and their pristine nature is very important not only to the people here who rely on the reefs for their livelihood but also to the developing tourism industry here.
AL: And have there been cases in the past of these bags suffocating marine life?
LA: Oh, certainly. That is a problem throughout all coastal areas of the world unfortunately in that plastic grocery bags can be confused by marine life as a food source and once they are ingested they are often fatal. So it is good
to be able to remove at least one small area that is contributing to plastic pollution within the Pacific region.
AL: What sort of benefits could this have for Yap if this is a success?
LA: I think the main benefits are just the flow through effects to having a healthier and cleaner environment. So that's both the terrestrial environment and in particular the reef. So it is going to be reducing the amount of plastic pollution that the state is contributing to the environment and also it is going to hopefully be improving the health of the reefs, which is such an integral part of not just the environment here but also the society. So I think the benefits could potentially be broad, far-reaching and hopefully long-term.
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